Monday, September 17, 2012

The Self-Employment Assistance Program


By Loren Diesi, Financial Services Summer Fellow

As a fellow at Women’s Initiative, I have had many opportunities to broaden my understanding of microenterprise. A few weeks ago I sat in on a webinar on the topic of the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEA). Before attending the webinar, I had no clue what this program was about. I learned that the SEA is not currently implemented in the state of California, however it is currently helping a great deal of people in our northern neighbor, Oregon.

What is the Self-Employment Assistance Program?

In Oregon, the SEA is a program that is closely related to Unemployment Benefits. The majority of claimants that apply for this program are accepted, however this program is geared towards building microenterprise and encouraging self-employment. Instead of having to look for a job while receiving unemployment, claimants are expected to work towards starting their own business full-time. Within 30 days of applying for the program, participants must submit a business plan. During the 26 week program, if a claimant is able to earn income from their starting business, they will also still receive unemployment benefits from the government allowing them to have reliable income. Throughout the program, claimants are given guidance and support to help with any of their business needs.

This program became extremely popular during the height of the recession, and we can see why. If jobs are not available, then the next best thing is to create your own job. By encouraging claimants to work in their own business fulltime, this requires them to become more proactive in getting them back on their feet. The Department of Labor deemed the SEA effective, and was especially successful with people who had been laid off from their previous jobs, or who had already had an interest in creating their own business. Below we can see the direct results of the SEA program in Oregon:

A slide from the SEA webinar presented by Martin Burrows, Assistant Director, Business and Employment Services of Oregon Employment Department

Women’s Initiative is an amazing program geared towards low-income women; however we have limited resources and cannot reach out to everyone. Currently the SEA is not implemented in California, but organizations are working towards getting a budget for next year. According to the Department of Labor, states have until June 30 of 2013 to apply for funding for the SEA program. To read more about this, check out the Department of Labor website here. Although work is in progress to make this program accessible to California residents, many do not know that it exists. You can help make this possible by spreading the word about the Self-Employment Assistance program. 

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